Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Leanella "Nella" Bedon Lawrence Lee, 1869–1964
By Nancy Alexander Simmons, Fairfax Station, VA
Woman Suffrage Activist
Leanella "Nella" Bedon was born January 7, 1869, in Bolivar County, Mississippi, to Doctor William Zalinski Bedon and Emily William Haile Bedon. Her father had been a surgeon for the Confederate Army and her mother was the daughter of U.S. Congressman William Haile. When her family moved to Greenville, Mississippi, she went to Mr. Willie Green's school, which was taught in a one-room school house. In 1889, she was a member of the first graduating class from the Industrial Institute and College in Columbus, Mississippi, now known as Mississippi University for Women.
On February 3, 1890, Nella married Judah M. Lawrence in Greenville. Their wedding announcement said they were "well known in the commercial circles of our city, they having been efficient and popular co-workers in the Bank of Greenville." Judah Lawrence died in 1904 and in 1908, Nella became the third wife of John Monterey Lee (1846-1929), who was the City Clerk of Greenville. She continued to live in Greenville the remainder of her life.
In 1917, Nella was among the suffragists who served on the board of the Woman's Committee, Mississippi Division of the National Council of Defense, which was focused on helping with "war work."
By the 1920 Census, Nella was employed as a stenographer with the Red Cross. She also taught commercial classes in the Greenville public schools, from which she retired. In 1925, she joined the Belvidere Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. During a 1943 interview, Nella talked about supporting three wars: The Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. She said that for World War I she and others "canned and sewed and knitted." The interview recognized her as the first member of the Belvidere DAR chapter to contribute over 300 hours of approved war service since Pearl Harbor and said she spent her mornings "at the Red Cross sewing rooms, her afternoons at the surgical dressing center and in between times her knitting needles are always in her hands."
Nella died February 24, 1964, in Greenville, Mississippi, and is buried in Greenville Cemetery where her husbands also are buried.
This photograph of her is from the 1943 interview.
Nella Bedon Lee 1943
"Society Turns from Bridge and Mah Jongg to Work for War Effort." The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), April 11, 1943, p. 9. Available through newspapers.com.
1920 U.S. Census, Mississippi. Greenville, Washington County, p. 12A; Enumeration District: 148. Digital images. Ancestry.com
"Dead From Apoplexy." The Vicksburg Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi), June 19, 1904, p. 1. Available through Newspapers.com.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 333. [LINK]
James Barnwell Heyward. The Genealogy of the Pendarvis-Bedon Families of South Carolina, 1670-1900 (Atlanta, Georgia: Foote & Davies Company, 1905), p. 208.
"Mrs. Nella Lee." The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), February 25, 1964, p. 2. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Society Notes." The Weekly Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), February 8, 1890, p. 5. Available through Newspapers.com.
1943 interview in "Society Turns from Bridge and Mah Jongg to Work for War Effort." The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), April 11, 1943, p. 9. Available through Newspapers.com.